As a child, when the school reports were handed out, my stomach churned with anxiety. It’s not that I was a bad student, but I was very shy and this was something teachers were quick to point out. Every. Single. Year.
‘Louise has a good grasp of English but doesn’t join in the class debates, and needs to…’
‘Louise excels at maths but is very quiet in class, and needs to…’
‘Louise produces some excellent work but fails to put her hand up, and needs to….’
But. But. But. And it didn’t matter how much I studied, the exams I passed, or the homework I always (nearly always) handed in on time. It was never enough. I was never enough. There was always a ‘but’ no matter how hard I tried. My results were good but my personality was always in question and my fragile confidence shrunk year after year, and the more I was told to speak up, the more insular I became.
Last month when my debut novel ‘The Sister,’ went out to Book Bloggers I was literally shaking with fear, and for days and days I couldn’t face seeing if there were reviews. I was writing my second novel and I knew I should look and take anything constructive and use it to improve my writing, so I took a deep breath, and logged on to Goodreads and clicked on a review which said: –
‘The Sister is Louise Jensen’s first novel but shows the maturity of a writer who is already very skilled at her craft.’ ‘Louise’s writing style captivated me instantly. I could hear and see each scene as it unfolded.’
So that was the good bit and I read on waiting for the ‘but….’ and ‘she needs to….’ but there wasn’t one and I’m not ashamed to admit I cried. Throughout this process I’d felt that if one person enjoyed reading Grace’s story it would all be worthwhile and suddenly it all was. Not everyone will like my story I know. Not all my reviews will be glowing, but that’s ok.
Publishers and authors talk about how important reviews are in terms of sales, of getting your name out there but I never thought they could have such an impact on the way I feel about myself.
The reviews have eradicated the memory of sitting, hands trembling, while my Mum sliced open the envelope containing my school report. That feeling of never being enough. I finally feel that I might be, just the way I am.